Thu. Dec 7th, 2023

When I first heard that an Artists Village was going to be created in downtown Santa Ana, I had my doubts.  I had never heard of such a place being created artificially by a city.  I was quite familiar with the Melrose District, a place where the arts sprang up unbidden.  Generally when this happens it does so in areas that are somewhat dilapidated.  But, eventually these areas become gentrified, and the artists get squeezed out.

So the Artists Village concept worried me.  I wondered if it was just an exercise in gentrification.  I wondered how the artists would be able to become financially self-supporting.  Now, many years later, some of those worries have returned.

Don’t get me wrong, Downtown Santa Ana is thriving.  But many of the artists are struggling to survive.  Some of the artists have fallen behind on their rent.  And many of them are beginning to get disgruntled, over a number of issues.

The Voice of OC published a post on Wednesday, about one of the artists at the Santora, Matthew Southgate.  I have been working with him to help start up an organization to represent the interests of the artists.

In the Voice of OC post, Southgate appears to be quite angry.  He is actually a pretty mellow guy, but he is indeed perturbed about a few things, as are many of his peers.

But will that anger result in any positive changes?  I think not.  The problem is that the artists have no leverage.  Founding their own organization will help, but they need to become a non-profit organization as soon as possible.   And they need to stay positive instead of going negative.

I do think the artists can thrive in Downtown Santa Ana, but not if they continue to engage in business as usual.  For the artists to survive, I think they are going to have to look at a few new ideas, including:

  • Gaining non-profit status for their association, so they can apply for government grants, including CDBG grants.
  • Find a way to work with the folks at Downtown, Inc. and the Downtown Santa Ana Restaurant Association.  These folks are all about bringing people with money to spend to the Artists Village.  How in the world is that a bad thing?  Join them at the table and be sure to add your voices to the mix.  Tossing stones at them will accomplish nothing.
  • Find a way to work with the City of Santa Ana’s administrators and local elected officials.  Attacking them is just going to anger them.  There are good people at City Hall.  It is time for diplomacy, not guerra!  And forget about working with Alfredo Amezcua.  He was soundly rejected by the voters this year.  Work with Mayor Miguel Pulido.  He has always been a patron of the arts.  His son goes to OCHSA.  Pulido is himself a musician.  He is married to a writer.  He is your friend, not your enemy!
  • Find a way to work with Mike Harrah.  He has contributed a lot to the Artists Village, yet many artists readily attack him and don’t cut him any slack.  He is a businessman.  He has a right to make a profit.  Why attack him?  That is just nonsense! So he is advertising Original Mike’s on the Santora Building.  Perhaps the sign is ugly – I don’t know as I have not seen it – but he has invested a ton of money in that restaurant.  I cannot blame him for wanting to market it.  Harrah is currently allowing many artists to stay at the Santora even though they owe back-rent.  The guy deserves kudos for that, not slaps to the face!
  • Why not have a Faces of Harrah event?  Get everyone to paint a unique Harrah portrait and sell them to raise money to help the artists who are struggling.  He is a good sport.  I bet he would show up to the event and pose for pictures.  He could cater the event with food from Original Mike’s!
  • Partner with local education organizations and get involved with existing non-profits that help to expose taggers to the arts.  They may discover the next Diego Rivera or Frida Kahlo!
  • Develop a marketing fund so they can buy advertising targeting architects, interior designers and corporate buyers (such as the folks that buy artwork for hotels).  And make use of free marketing tools.  Every artist in Santa Ana should have a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, just for starters.  They also should load pictures of all their products in a Flickr feed, or use Google Picasa.
  • Start a “Friends of the Artists Village” organization so Santa Ana residents can pitch in to help – they could buy annual memberships for a low price, such as $25, receiving a monthly newsletter, a t-shirt, a bumper sticker and invites to exclusive member-only events.
  • How about taking the Santa Ana Artists Village on tour?  Get a van and go set up exhibits throughout the County.  Let folks outside the city know who you are, what you do, and where they can go to meet you and buy your products on a regular basis!
  • Organize a Santa Ana international food festival, like the one that has been such a success in Orange for so many years.  We are the most culturally diverse city in Orange County.  Surely we can pull this off!  And it would bring a lot of folks to our downtown area.  How about a Viet-Mex Festival?  Wouldn’t that be something!
  • Actually, why not a Tet Festival too?
  • And why not an annual Gay Rights event?  A big one with musical acts, stage performances, performance art, and food vendors.  Money raised could go to AIDS research.
  • How about setting up a program to exhibit artwork produced by local artists in prominent Santa Ana businesses and organizations?  Let’s put some local art in the O.C. Register’s lobby; and throughout the MainPlace Mall; and at the CityPlace, and at the Hutton Centre – and at local restaurants.
  • How about working to convince the City of Santa Ana to allow tattoo shops and Hookah bars in our downtown area?  We need edgier businesses like that to bring more patrons to our downtown!
  • How about partnering with El Centro Cultural de Mexico on a few joint projects and events?  How about starting an artist exchange program with artists in Mexico?
  • And when are we bringing Lucha Libre to Downtown Santa Ana?

If the artists are to survive at our Artists Village we all need to pitch in and help them.  Mention their products to your friends at work.  Link to their Facebook pages and websites.  Promote them in social media.   Join the Friends of the Artists Village.  Don’t just sit there and watch them fade away.  They are and should remain a vital part of Downtown Santa Ana.

By Editor

The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

21 thoughts on “Can the artists thrive in Santa Ana’s Artists Village?”
  1. Response received today via email:

    Mr Pedroza.

    Thank you for your efforts..however the questions sent by A.V.A.S.A. to the city collectively have yet to be address…I believe most of us want to work with the city but we can’t expect Downtown Inc or anyone else to mediate neutrally. We have received a great number of responses and our group will be growing. This is all good news.

    The anger comes from lack of transparency and the lack of communication. Things that the city and Downtown Inc have failed at and in my opinion they have failed miserably. So we are left with pushing the envelope to get some of our questions answered. We will await a response from the city to our list of questions from A.V.A.S.A. but in the lack of them..we will move forward with other avenues.. We deserve to be acknowledge and our questions should be answered by doing this the City will open a transparent dialog and therefore demonstrate their willingness to work with us..Gabi, Councilwomen Martinez?

    As for Harrah..his manipulation with the artist has gone to great strengths and it is quite unfair to say that some artist are behind on their rent…at the same time that the Santora Building is falling apart..Mr. Pedroza did you reach out to Mr. Harrah on why the Santora Building is falling apart? a 1920’s HISTORICAL landmark, that the city left in the hands of an urban lord whose only agenda is the $$$ not the people, not the artists. What is the word for this? oh yeah Slumlord. Maybe this is the only way to get Mr. Harrah’s attention..It would be wise to get some real investigative journalist out there who are willing to do their homework before posting an article about the intricate details of The Artists Village.

    Also did the city approve these signs? did Mr. Harrah get a permit? or is it just 4th street that burdens the city fines when their signs are not with in city code? hum..Can the City answer that too? or does Mr. Harrah get a pass? Anyone? Gabi? Councilwomen Martinez?

    Come to think of it the agenda of Downtown, inc, the City and the Restaurant Association are the same! Whats wrong with that picture? Who is the President of The Restaurant Association?

    I do agree with you Mr. Pedroza on many levels..and I can honestly say that we want positive change in our Village..but we can’t move forward unless there is a clear understanding on the agenda, the goals and the future plans of the City…let the City address our concerns and lets move from there.

    check out this comment left on Voice of OC blog:
    Yes, Mr. Harrah, you do own the Santora and you can do whatever you want. You can deface the front of the building with ugly signs that don’t conform to historical building specifications, nor even relate to what’s in the building. You can ignore regulations regarding easement facades because you know that no one will challenge you. Problems with water leaks can be ignored because you know that if anyone complains you’ll raise their rents and they can’t afford that to happen. And have you seen the termite ridden door that opens up to the promenade? Oh, wait, you don’t have to do anything about that because you own the building and it is America. And maybe you need to put your signs up in front of the Santora to promote a restaurant a block away because you knew that there would be valet parking right in front of your signs, and maybe, perhaps, you were concerned that the new restaurant on Broadway would be a threat to your business. So, of course, why not use your own building to promote another of your businesses. Who cares if it shows disrespect or even contempt to those inside who work hard just to make ends meet in this economy. Who cares? Not you, of course not. After all, it is America and you do own the building.

    We my friends are not alone…we are only starting to organize and our attempts might fail but we are going to give it our all.


    Alicia Rojas

  2. “The anger comes from lack of transparency and the lack of communication.”

    Yup, couldn’t agree more – been dealing with this closed City of Santa Ana since the 20th century – don’t expect that to change.

    The only way to beat them is to stay organized and informed AND IN THEIR FACE!!

    Keep your case in the media – get to know the reporters and blogs that cover the dishonest city government of Santa Ana.

  3. “Join them at the table and be sure to add your voices to the mix. Tossing stones at them will accomplish nothing.”
    beg to differ here. The Valet is Canceled because we were unafraid to speak out and ask the tough questions…journalist should be doing this.
    But yes now that Artists have formed a group we can collectively speak as one..this group is organic, independent and democratic.
    And I am sure that the City will be sitting with us as well as Downtown Inc. We have forced them too. Our methods might be criticized but the collective result and progress is what speaks volumes and matters.

  4. I for one think that the valet service is a good idea. We need to start seeing revenue generated in the downtown area. For far too long these artists have been depleting revenue. If they can’t pay their own way it is time that we bring in businesses that can.

    I don’t see how a bunch of angry revenue depleters should be in a position to force anyone’s hand.

  5. Artist,

    You are making demands of the city/taxpayers. What exactly are you bringing to the table besides complaints? Are you folks generating revenue? Mike Harrah is.

  6. Everyone needs to keep in mind that Sean Mill, despite all his recent so-called “positivity”, has a chip on his shoulder when it comes to the Artists Village from many years ago…he didn’t think it should have happened. He thought it was part of Miguel Pulido’s dastardly plan to gentrify downtown.

    Apparently we’re to believe that Pulido no longer has plans for gentrification, but make no mistake about it, Sean Mill is not a friend to the artists. He once described someone’s artist friends as a bunch of “queers”.

  7. Yes we are..since our name Artist Village is being used to promote the trendy place to bring in people…so yes we demand a place at the table a piece of the pie and suggestions is what we have..We are still organizing..give us time.

    And as for Mike Harrah..he is a slumlord when it comes to the Santora Building. So in your view (PR agency for SA) we should bow to corporate America? I think your comments and opinions are not with in public opinion right now..not just in SA but in America at large.

    A slumlord (also spelled slum lord) is a derogatory term for landlords, generally absentee landlords, who attempt to maximize profit by minimizing spending on property maintenance, often in deteriorating neighborhoods. They may need to charge lower than market rent to tenants. Severe housing shortages allow slumlords to charge higher rents.

    The phrase slumlord first appeared in 1953, though the term slum landlord dates to 1893.[1]

    Traditionally, real estate is seen as a long term investment to most buyers. Especially in the developed world, most landlords will properly maintain their properties even when doing so proves costly in the short term, in order to attract higher rents and more desirable tenants in the long run. A well-maintained property is worth more to potential buyers.

    In contrast, slumlords do very little maintenance on their property (ordinarily, just enough to meet minimum local requirements for habitability), and in turn offer low rent rates to lure tenants who will not (or cannot) pay high rent (and/or who might not pass background checks should these be required to live in the higher rent areas). Slumlords of this kind typically prosecute many evictions.

    It is not uncommon for slumlords to buy property with little or no down payment, and also to receive rent in cash to avoid disclosing it for tax purposes, providing lucrative short term income. (Thus, in the U.S., slumlords would normally not participate in government-subsidized programs such as Section 8, due to the requirements to report income and keep properties well-maintained.) A slumlord may also hope that his property will eventually be purchased by government for more than it is worth as a part of urban renewal, or by investors as the neighborhood becomes gentrified.

  8. @anon…interesting about Sean…”Queers” nice New Santa Ana….
    Do you have a reply Sean?

  9. Artist,

    If you have a problem with the upkeep of the building by Mr. Harrah there are avenues to file grievances. Have you done that?

    You as tenants have rights and you should exercise them. However as the property owner Mr. Harrah has rights to and he should exercise those as well if he see’s fit.

    As far as “anon’s” comment I am not going to respond. He likes to throw grenades and run away cowardly. Today he wants to take a 12 to 15 year old comment out of context.

    When he offers something constructive here I will respond to him.

  10. “Yes we are..since our name Artist Village is being used to promote the trendy place to bring in people…so yes we demand a place at the table”


    You do realize that it was taxpayer money that was used to create that place right?

    How much longer do you think that the taxpayers should subsidize you folks?

    Money that should have been spent on the residents of this city went towards funding the Artists Village made up primarily of outsiders. Money that could’ve went to parks programs and other things went towards creating this place.

    Enough is enough. If you can’t sustain it and create revenue generating businesses then you should get out of the way and let those that can do it.

  11. Sean, your insistence on equating the revenue an artist should generate with the revenue that a business, say, like a restaurant should generate is absurd. Apples and oranges.

    But that’s just a convenient faux issue you’ve created to negate the other ways that artists can have a positive impact on the area…all emanating from your long-held opposition to the Artists Village in the first place.

    Oh, and by the way, genius…artists pay taxes too.

  12. anon,

    The restaurants aren’t asking for handouts like some of the artists. If they restaurants want the taxpayers to subsidize them I would oppose that too.

    The artists don’t pay anywhere close to what they take.

    They should be self-sufficient just like the other non-artist businesses in downtown.

  13. Mr. Pedroza, when are politicians and those who ride on their coattails as you do,going to pay your own way?

    1. Robin,

      I honestly don’t know what to make of your comment. I am sorry you are so upset. Have a Happy Holiday!

  14. I am quite sure you don’t. And did you know that saying things like, “I am sorry you are upset,” is the very mantra of the passive aggressive? You and your slumlord friend need to take that sign of that historic landmark and get it up to code. I heartily endorse a lawsuit if this is not done summarily.

    1. Robin,

      I am sorry you are so angry.

      I barely know Mr. Harrah. But I can appreciate the good things he has done for our city.

      If you have complaints about his properties I would encourage you to bring them to his attention or contact the City of Santa Ana’s building and code enforcement departments.

  15. I just found this article and I have to say that I go to the art walk just about every month and I buy a coffee and eat a nice dinner in the artist village on that night. If the art walk wasn’t there I’m pretty sure a few of those places would soon go away from lackof customers because during the week they seem to be empty.

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